Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Secret Sky

Last week I decided I was going to read through my library's collection of YA lit, from the beginning. It's a rather daunting task, especially as I'm sure there's going to be more than a few that I hate. Also it will take me a long time, given that I won't only be reading YA. Anyway, I jumped in with both feet and grabbed the first two books on the shelf. The first one alphabetically being The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan, by Atia Abawi. It's one that I likely would have picked up even without my challenge. And I was not disappointed, though this book is not for the faint of heart. It tore me apart while I read it.


The Secret Sky is told from three viewpoints, Fatima, the girl, Samiullah, the boy, and Rashid, his cousin. It takes place in modern day Afghanistan, mostly in a tiny village. Fatima is a Hazara, a Shia, and Sami is a Pashtun, a Sunni. They've known each other their whole lives but of course as they grew, tradition dictated that they would never be allowed to see each other again. Sami was gone off to the madrassa with his cousin Rashid when the book opens, and he returns shortly. Turns out he was disgusted with the teachings there, and hopes for a better world. He and Fatima are so happy to see each other again, but with tradition and culture and religion bearing down on them, they can only meet secretly, which is also completely forbidden. But love grows despite everything, and they end up in a fight for their lives. Rashid is brainwashed by the teachings of the madrassa and he causes much grief for his cousin and Fatima, but not without essentially losing himself in the process.


Honestly, I don't usually like YA romance because it's all cliche and often way too promiscuous. This novel, however, broke my heart so soundly and I cried. It's not cliche, it's a triumph. It shows the dangers of Islam and how hard it is to live a normal life in the Middle East, particularly as a woman. The things that Fatima goes through...that her own family does to her, it's horrifying. There's death in this book, horrible, unnecessary death. There's so.much.hate. But you should read it. It will stick with you. And it should.

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